Wally Arnold

(From an article published in The Gamlingay Gazette in May 2007)

Wally, was one of five children who lived at 27 Mill Street until he moved to Cambridge. His elder brother lived in number 37 with his grandparents to make more room for the family. This article follows his time from leaving school and entering the working world.
Leaving school in the summer of 1948, Wally moved on to further education at CAAT (Cambridge Technological College, now part of the Cambridge Regional College). This was a mixed college, and he attended with friends Barbara Harris, Billy Richardson from Hatley and Freddie Meeks.

For the 1949 academic year, he studied carpentry bricklaying and painting and decorating for a term in addition to other core subjects. This was the grounding for his intended career as a draughtsman. Unlike many of us, it seems that Wally had a good sense of career direction, right from the start.
In order to catch the 8am steam train leaving Gamlingay every morning, students cycled up from the village along Station Road. Due to the rise in the landscape, the engine driver was able to see them on their way, and was known to wait for their arrival before pulling away with up to four carriages on to Cambridge. Steam trains ran from Gamlingay until 1968/9, and the service was sorely missed once the line between Cambridge and Oxford closed.

After this year, Wally went into Private practice in Cambridge starting as an office boy, running errands. Wally was responsible for taking the print negatives over to the copy shop, amongst other duties, and his weeks wage at this time was £1. Most of this was spent on the train fare, and once his employer discovered this, his wage was increased by 10s. The Company were the principal architects for the design of many council houses, but there were also other clients throughout East Anglia. Wally began his formal draughtsman’s training in this office. In February 1959, after he had completed his apprenticeship, Wally did 62 days National Service in the army pay core in Devizes, Wiltshire. After a short period of square bashing, he was dismissed as unfit on medical grounds. He returned to the practice and remained with them until 1975 when the Company closed, and the partnership dissolved.

In 1975, Wally was taken on by Fisons, the chemical manufacturer in Mill House, Hauxton, as a draughtsman in their drawing office. Wally designed commercial and industrial workshops, warehousing and laboratories. Fisons after some time amalgamated with Boots (FBC) who were then later taken over by Scherings. The drawing office closed, and Wally was left without a position for about eighteen months. Wally changed career and began working for Cambridge Building Society which took him in an entirely new direction. He remained in their accounts department until his retirement in 1998.

Sadly, some of the photographs Wally kindly showed me are too damaged to reproduce as part of this item. But one he did explain to me in some detail, which should bring back memories for many of those features in the image. In the late 1940’s, Papworth Hospital ran an annual fete and sports day. Pictured here is a group of Gamlingay children who were representing the district taking part in the events in 1947. In 1948 the participants were each presented with a fountain pen. Betty and Wally both still have theirs and probably others retain theirs too!

I asked Wally where he was on Coronation Day, and he remembers watching the procession on his Brother- in -Law’s TV in Dutter End. After the ceremony, he cycled across to Biggleswade to take his girlfriend out for the evening.

In his early teens, Wally was a keen footballer, playing both in the village team and occasionally for the Biggleswade Colts. In the early 50’s Wally had been doorman at the monthly dances held at the Conservative Club, and took the ticket takings of approximately 7S 6d per ticket home at the end of the evening loose in his pockets! The proceeds helped with the running costs of the football club.
Wally met his wife, Elsie in 1949. She lived in Biggleswade. Local lads, Wally, Lol Titmus and Freddie Meeks used to cycle across to Biggleswade to meet the girls and take them to the cinema. Wally married in 1955, in the snow, in Biggleswade, and apparently there was only half a church standing at the time because it had been recently damaged by fire.
Honeymooning in an hotel in London, the newlyweds then returned to the village to reside in his family home, with his father at 27 Mill Street.

In 1963, with two young children, the family of four moved to Cambridge for the convenience of Wally reaching work, and Wally remembers purchasing a black and white television set then. It wasn’t until the family’s return to Gamlingay that they had colour television.
In 1967, when the new houses of School Close were under construction, the family returned to Gamlingay and purchased 7 School Close. Wally and his wife are still here, although their two daughters have moved away.

Socially, Wally became involved with many of the village groups, and with his older brother, Jack, gave up some of his spare time to raise money for the building of the Community Centre. Jack designed the building, but Wally recreated the plans as a 3d model which was then paraded on a gala float for the villagers to see. This model allowed all to see what their money was going towards.

Not purchasing his first car until returning to Gamlingay, Wally and family often travelled by bus and remembers getting stuck in the snow in the winter of 1963 on their attempted return from Biggleswade to Cambridge.
Brother Jack owned a car, and also worked in Cambridge, though for the County Council as an architectural draughtsman after being in private practice until the Principal died. The two brothers travelled into Cambridge together for some years, and Betty Fuller was also able to get a lift, making it more convenient for her travelling in to her Bursar’s Secretarial position in Trinity College.

In 1976, when members of the Working Men’s Club wanted to extend their club with a lounge and alter the toilets, Wally designed the new space. It was originally an L shaped building of wooden construction, and that building had been purchased in Cardington, and transported by horse and cart to the village. It originally had a corrugated iron roof. The building was transformed by the modernisation, and the club we see today has once again been through extensive refurbishment within the last eighteen months. Shortly after involving himself in the extension, Wally took over as treasurer. Apart from a short break, he remains involved even now.

1977 also saw him become Treasurer of the bowls Club, taking it over from the then Headmaster, Mr Robinson when he became unwell. Wally and his wife were both members of the team. The bowling green was originally located behind the Conservative Club on Waresley Road, and it moved to its present location when the playing fields were opened, providing far more space for the green. He remembers organising the Annual end of season dinner and dance at which up to 200 villagers attended and during the evening the yearly trophies were presented.

Wally was also treasurer of the British Legion in 1979, a position he still holds and has seen various secretaries, including Vic Dennis and Geoff Dickerson. Vic and Geoff organised the annual poppy day collection, a position now held by Sebastian Kindersley.

I am struck by the variety of social activities Wally has volunteered his time to support over the years, and the similarity with today is uncanny. There are many more living in Gamlingay than when Wally first left school, sought work and settled as a working, married man, but now as then, only a few members of our community offer their time to support and ensure there is a variety of activities available for us all to enjoy in our leisure time within Gamlingay. So, thank you Wally, not only for letting me follow the thread of your life from school through work and into your active retirement within the village, but also for enriching the lives of other villagers by this continued involvement over the years.